Stud VS. Butch: What’s the difference?

I recently asked for some feedback on the differences between the terms “Stud” and “Butch”. I’m a femme from Southern California and most of the more masculine leaning lesbians out here use one of these terms to self-identify, in my personal experience. I’ve even dated a few butches, stone butches and one stud. So you would think that I know the difference, but I still don’t really get it. I was told by a self-identified stud that to her, the term was more closely aligned with the term “stone butch” in referring to how she was not open to being touched in a feminizing way by her partner. But if that’s the case, then is race really the only difference between these terms and why do you think that is?

I actually tricked one of my best friends into writing the majority of this blog for me. We were discussing the topic and she emailed me her experiences. She was kind enough to let me repost her email because she touches on the points I wanted to bring up. Looking forward to any readers input. For the record, this blog post is mainly directed at the people that DON’T identify in these terms, but instead it’s to help us to not offend those that do. Because it’s been my personal experience as well, that if you call one by the wrong term, they don’t usually like that and I always feel like an idiot when I accidentally put my foot in my mouth, which actually happens more then you might think. This is also for all the femmes and girls of all labels that are attracted to butches and studs. Maybe this will help you look like you know what you’re talking about next time you have the nerve to talk to some hot butch/stud you see in the supermarket. ūüėČ

So on this Stud vs. Butch conversation, I am just going to give you my history (from a rural experience) with these labels and how I view them from my femme perspective.

When I first was going through the process of coming out and looking at gay history in the early 1990s, the words “femme” and “butch” were standard fair in the vocabulary. ¬†In looking at the pictures of the past and meeting various women, I found most were comfortable falling into one of these two categories and it was almost expected. ¬†Any couple who did not fit into these roles were looked upon with discomfort in the lesbian community, and in some cases being isolated out. ¬†When two femmes were together it was “cute” and “fun”, but not taken seriously. ¬†When two butches got together, it was a lot of uncomfortable silence. ¬†Growing up in a small rural town, “butch” was also used to describe straight women who did not fit into the mold. ¬†“Butch” described women who wore collared shirts, jeans and had DAs or short cropped hair. ¬†They might also be women who had a “manly” walk or mannerisms, or who took on a dominant role in their relationships, straight or gay. ¬†In my own relationships, many a girl tried to make me a “butch” my taking my more tomboy approach to style and as they said, “butching it up” asking me to cut my hair short and add a flip in the front, take my normal tee-shirt and jeans and make it more baggy and from the mens department. ¬†It also described an attitude. ¬†One of taking charge of any situation, opening doors and expressing other gentlemanly ¬†manners and taking care of any male-associated household chores.

In the mid 1990s I moved to a more metropolitan area and heard for the first time the descriptor, “stud”. ¬†Interestingly, I found this word to be almost exclusively used to describe the “butch” women of color, primarily with the black, Latina and Puerto Rican communities. ¬†It went beyond the “butch” label and added elements of street-style and hip hop. ¬†There was more of an edge. ¬†At that time, (and to be honest, I still have not heard) Caucasian women¬†being described this way . ¬†It was used to describe women who were “players” and came across as women who could take care of themselves and their woman-even in a fight with a man. ¬†I knew butches who were certainly players and could take care of themselves and their woman in a fight with a man but the style and attitude were different. I found that the studs I spoke with however seemed to identify more as stone butch in their relationships. There also was no language being used to describe stud variations. ¬†Either you are or you aren’t a “stud”. ¬†I have never heard: “soft”, “metrosexual” or “sporty” being used as descriptors to describe a stud like with the work butch.

Just source studs and butches on a Google search and you can see the images tend to be racially divided.

As I got older and discovered myself, I knew I was a femme and I knew I wanted to date a “Stud”. ¬†The butch women I met ¬†were great, but not “hard” enough for me. ¬†I wanted someone with more of an edge and the “stud” women I met seemed to fit that role that I was looking for. ¬†I have many friend whom identify and butch and all its variations, but in my opinion there is another level of attitude that goes with being a stud.

I know there are plenty of people who hate labels, but for me I enjoyed discovering these labels because it helped me to define myself as femme and what I wanted in a partner.

And that’s my experience.

So what’s your experience? The reader? Do you identify as a stud or butch and if so, why? What do you see as the main differences? If you’re attracted to them, again, why one more then the other? And here’s a question, is one easier to date then the other? I have an answer that will get me into trouble, but you first. ūüėČ

This article has 17 comments

  1. Van

    Yes! I identify as a stud, but i sometimes use the other terms as bois, or masculine to describe me and my friends. Out here in Los Angeles you dont really hear the term butch as much. If you do, they are either white, or an older lesbian. But even then, a white butch is sometime called a stud as well. I know its confusing, maybe it is the clothes that differentiate studs from butchs or our demeanor. But i think femmes can describe the difference in studs and butches best. ūüôā

  2. Stienster

    Nice write from you both ;0)
    Im 51, so Im not familiar with “stud” in lesbianisms. It was a gay MALE term back in the day.
    Maybe Im not a good reference point- I’m mixed-bag-les: ‘lipstick lez’ in the streets, but stone butch in the sheets. I’ll flip my Lady on her back before she knows how and what. Now im married, to a mixed-bag “sporty butch” in the streets, but all femme in the sheets. Go figure!

  3. TJai

    This was a great read, and I have actually been having conversations with people over all these labels that are out now. When I came out you were either femme or stud. There was no in between and like you stated two femmes together was cute and something you wanted to watch but didn’t take seriously and two studs together was Taboo. When I first came out I played the femme role as I tried to find myself and I soon realized that I was more comfortable as a “stud”. These labels now days are far too confusing. You can be whatever you want to be any day of the week and sometimes a mixture between the two lol. I do think race, age and where you are from plays a big role as to what category you fit into. It’s hard for me to describe what classifies you into different labels as i have lived the past 14 years as a “stud”. Attitude has a lot to do with is also.
    I believe we try to categorize ourselves far toops much. We should be happy and just live our lives.

  4. Sara

    I don’t identify as butch, but I do dress in a masculine manner. I, too, find that “stud” has racial connotations. Perhaps acting a certain way as masculine female is a cultural thing? In the first picture, the only one I would personally pick out as a stud at first glance is the one with the blue hat and shirt. The others I would think of as butch or MOC.

  5. Sasha

    Just a note on the photos used: they aren’t what my friend and I are “defining”” as either butch or stud, it’s a real example of what you find when you google those two terms. We’re not trying to define anyone by those photos, they’re an example of what is already being portrayed.

  6. Karen Sokolof Javitch

    Dear Card Carrying Lesbian,

    I am a big advocate for the LGBT Community and I have composed two CD’s in their honor: “Men in Love…” and “Women in Love…”. I would love to send you these CD’s to have you review them in your blog. My goal is to raise money for the LGBT Community with them. Do you have an address where I can send them?
    Here is one of the songs that I put on youtube – titled: ‘Missing – The Day I Can Marry the One I Love’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dStxR0pbBs Also, my website: http://www.jmrproductions.com/ has the songs to the albums.

    Thanks so much.

    Karen Sokolof Javitch

  7. MEL

    I’m definitely a stud. I’m the one that opens the doors and stuff lol.
    I looked really femm till I cut my hair but I didn’t mind because I do like dressing up and I model on the side so I was an easy commercial look.
    But I had always taken charge of the more male-associated tasks. I’m fiercely independent and I’m moving out 3weeks before my 20th birthday because my father is fine that im gay but can’t look at me without my curly mane. Lokl
    I identify as a stud because I fit the stereotypes associated with the term. I’m stone because I don’t trust easily, I’m here to serve and that is my pleasure.
    My style has a girly touch every now and then. But it’s always edgy. I’m a South African and coloured by race and culture. But the term is used for people with mixed origins. My grandfather was german and married a Mauritanian woman. So like…another stereotype that fits
    Stud is just who I am.

  8. dee


  9. Beth

    I consider myself a butch, albeit soft, because I’m a top and have many boyish qualities. But I wear makeup and get mani-pedis. I only wear pants and tend to dress more on the masculine side. But femmes who like butch don’t think I’m butch enough. Am I using the wrong term to describe myself?

  10. Jane

    This is interesting. I am a bisexual femme… If that is defined based on a “look”. I have long hair, wear makeup and dresses often. However, I would never wear lipstick or have long nails. Next to most women I know, I am “low maintenance”. There is no way I am taking more than 5 minutes to get ready to go anywhere. I don’t have patience to fuss around too much.

    If we are talking about attitude, femme does not describe me. I am, always will be and always have been “the breadwinner” and provider for my loves. My date is never taking me out for dinner for example. I am always treating them to dinner.

    In bed, I am always a “top” regardless of the gender of my partner. I “take charge” and ownership of everyone getting off. I am rather dominant. I have a dresser full of toys and know how to use them. If you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that, we can’t date.

    Additionally, gender roles confuse me. Prior to my current relationship, I opened all doors for my date. The first time my boyfriend opened a door for me, I didn’t know what to do… Where to stand or how to go through it. I have adjusted to his style however. I now know how to walk through a door that is being held open for me and appreciate the gesture.

    On the other hand, I identify with some of the “stone butch” attributes. For example, I don’t want anyone to go down on me. I do not enjoy submitting in this way. If you have your heart set on that… I will tolerate it occasionally but not really enjoy it. It feels emotionally uncomfortable for me to be in that role.

    Finally, I am a rather good cook and take charge of feeding my family. My mother had a Home Economics degree and was a Suzie Homemaker type. Some of her talents rubbed off on me while others did not.

    When dating women, I am often not well received. Butch gals see me as competition for the available femmes, never as a possible date. I am attracted to a wide spectrum of people so I think a lot of butches were pretty hot, but none have ever been attracted to me. I guess they didn’t want to “walk through the door” or be “taken out”. Many femmes are looking for a butch not another femme. My experience with femmes is that I am a great temporary diversion.

    So how the heck do I describe this to others? I’m a bi stone femme? Is there such a thing?

  11. BiButch

    Responding to commenter Jane:

    You can describe yourself in any way you’d like, and it’s valid. Your experiences and preferences are fascinating to read.

    I’m in a similar boat, and am confusing to others much of the time. I’m a bisexual butch, attracted only to butch and masculine-of-center women, and to cis-males. I’m not stone, I’m a switch. I’m currently in a relationship with a genderqueer butch lesbian, who was formerly stone her entire life until two years ago. We work together to help her learn how to feel pleasure (this is where my top skills come into play), and when we switch she tops the hell out of me in ways I’d never been topped before. We negotiate who gets to hold the door when we step out in public together. It’s a wonderful adventure, and I am enjoying romancing my butch.

  12. femmegirl1968

    I am fully femme and am attracted to hard butch or.stud lesbians
    I am not interested physically or psychologically in topping or switching that dynamic . I am often dismissed socially as bi or wanting a man because of my preference and appearance.
    I have no experience outside my one partner but know I would not sexually be attracted to anyone less aggressive or dominant than I am .
    I figure I’d be single forever because I have no idea how to find or know how to find someone without using “labels”
    I AM a femme a lipstick lesbian.
    Not bi sexual. Not confused
    I want a dominant woman in and out of the bedroom .
    Label “stud”
    Or simply one can see and read a person
    Labels help but lots of femmes top from the bottom and butche are bottoms in bed
    Confusing as fuck to me .
    And I’m gay lmao

  13. Jo

    Question: Why do Lesbians these days say they are “Gay”? If I we’re to go to a porn website and search “Gay” all I would see are MEN.

    I know this is a general term used these days, I just don’t know why Lesbians think this old male term is acceptable.

  14. Matt

    I am a bisexual man but my mom was a lesbian. She was even in the closet the hard line butch. Dominate everything but looked very feminine. Her partners both looked butch but had some really prissy collapsing moments during fights. I have only been with bi women and bi men and with bi women in my experience, they have a couple really solid butch lesbian mode traits and some princessy traits in other ways. They’ll be ready to take an axe and chop a whole load of lumber and be like get out of my way and then can’t check oil on a car for instance.

    I am really ambiguous and tend to date the same. Where the gay dar is jammed and there seems to be a lack of concern for either. I like people that can click with me on the bi level. I will say, lesbians and bi women are much more evolved and I am seeing that bisexual men are seeing our overlap with the origins of the mentality behind the crazy idea that men are so great. My mom kept me well versed in lesbian politics.

    And like my mom, I had a goth phase and my ex pushed me into crossdressing and I was beautiful so I ran with it but my voice sadly is the bleh, “male” one. My gestures and movement was very female passing but when creeper straight dudes would be staring at my butt when I wore something skimpy, suddenly it was, “you stare at my body like that much longer you’ll be my krav maga proactice for the day. I grew up around lesbian culture and was the one who would house sit for the group of lesbians at michfest.

    My choice todress in women’s attire was more based on how beautiful I looked and how U managed to i really mindfuck the goth/punk culture. It was a culture shock because goth men seemed to have this swarm thing in other areas. When it came to social dynamics, the arrogant heterosexual guy who was the big ego that I went for because I spoke like one of them but until 21/22, when facial hair and broads shoulders came, I didn’t feel it anymore . I still have the dominant male persona but I am 35 and was in grade school behaving obviously bisexual and at age 9 or so, the violence came and then a little more at 13 when my mom cameo out as a lesbian but Itook the beef right to thehighest male on the ladder. My mom used to run the LGBT student thing for my area and my goth/punk cultural F*cjk you was seen as unfair to the gay kids but in the mid-late 90s, they didnt like bisexuality unless it was in the context of coming out as gay so I didn’t bother.

    I hope bi men being as stagnant as agroup as it is can play a role dialing the other two down a notch. Bi men are not budging because as a group because we kind of want to tajke ng at our culture. The David Bowie days was doing a great job with both. I know straight men don’t take the love of women without men seroiously and gay men claim any love.

    it’s just odd to see the misogyny. Straight men are the worst but gay men and gayness are all penis waving crap. They project it on us too and I laugh at way it sounds.


    Thanks for posting this! My wife and I both identify as androgynous but I wonder if people don’t think we’re “cute” since we both have relatively long hair and often wear make-up. Like, we’re not really, REALLY gay, obviously, but just decided on the lifestyle. I have to admit, being an older lesbo, I have looked on femme/femme relationships as “just visiting” trysts (inspired by “The L-Word”). We’re learning a lot nowadays since we’re doing videos on YouTube and we’re sort of getting tired of being wrong and outdated about everything, then being corrected by younger women in the comments. This post was a great read, so thank you. I can now speak with something approaching authority on the difference between butch and stud (a term I hadn’t heard until, literally, yesterday). I may be middle-aged but I can still learn and change, dammit.

  16. Lee

    I consider my self as a “$tud” me personally when I hear butch I see a “touch me not” like sexually u can’t touch or even see certain place with him. Me I like the oral thing but I don’t like the receiving positions.

  17. Sporty Shorty

    I consider myself a soft butch or sporty butch, I open doors and things as a gentleman would do. I only date or have relationships with femmes. I also find myself always being a straight woman’s first experience which is fine but if they’re not certain and I fall for them = Broken Heart. I’m being pursued by a straight married woman now, she’s not happy in her relationship and says she is planning to leave. I don’t just want to be her experiment as I really like her and I’m looking forward to the experience, just hoping it’s not one and done.

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